Currently, AT&T is conspicuously missing in the Open Handset Alliance which is particularly damaging considering how large the AT&T network is. Android is reaching less customers because of T-Mobile's considerably smaller footprint. In an interview with Engadget Mobile, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega discusses why this is so:
Regarding AT&T's stance on Android:
"No, actually, I think that [my previous thoughts on Android] have been somewhat validated in that… we like the Android as an operating system on its own, but we want to make sure that we have, and customers have the option, to put applications on that device that are not just Google applications, so when the G1 came out and T-Mobile launched it, it’s primarily a Google phone. And we want to give customers the choice of other applications on that device, not just the same Google applications."
What AT&T is waiting Android to become:
"Well, to be open. (Laughter.) Right? I mean, the whole idea behind Android is that it’s gonna be an open OS, and so I don’t wanna roll an open OS to market that has primarily Google apps on it, and I think that’s gonna happen. I mean, I see a lot of activity, I think it’s got a good future, and I think it makes a lot of sense that the OS is open-source, separate from Google apps that are also very good."
Concerns on Android's stability:
"Well, I am not 100 percent comfortable until our people kick the tires on it in the lab, and what worries me most is malware and security and privacy issues that can get into that phone. You know, T-Mobile has had a couple of issues as you know, and so it validated our concerns that we had up front that… I don’t mind having the open OS, but I want to make sure that when our customers use it, their security or their privacy is not going to be compromised. That they’re not going to be subject to attacks and malware."
Essentially, what Ralph De La Vega is saying between the lines is that AT&T is taking the safe route with Android: the wait and see approach. Because AT&T is the leading carrier in the USA right now, they don't need to jeopardize themselves and their relationships with a new platform and go through the growing pains of maturation.
The risks that AT&T do take (iPhone) need to be successful from the get go. And as much as we love Android, in AT&T's eye Android's risk outweighed its rewards. From AT&T's perspective it seems like they have no need to lend a helping hand in growing a platform because honestly, as it stands now, Android needs AT&T more than AT&T needs Android.
Will we eventually see an AT&T Android Device? Of course. But Android needs to prove itself capable first. Luckily, we're already on our way.